Churches across the United States are starting create coffee house style worship halls called video cafes. Services held in these venues include live worship bands and a TV screen where a video sermon is broadcasted.
Typically used as an overflow room for those who arrive late to service, these video venues are becoming an attractive option in its own right. These venues are being used to draw people in who would normally not attend service in a traditional setting.
Walter Jones, a member at New Life Christian Church in Centreville, Va., said his 15-year old son would not attend church if it werent for the video café.
Churches across the country are taking advantage of the relatively low costs of setting up a video café and have started branches miles away from the main sanctuary. An advantage of these venues is that it does not require hiring another pastor.
Seacoast Church in Charleston, S.C., records the head pastor's sermons Saturday night and delivers the videotapes by bus to eight locations for Sunday services across the city. The video services, launched two years ago, draw a total of 2,000, about a third of the congregation.
Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Ill., has no preaching pastor on its staff and instead relies on a videotape library of sermons from other top preachers in the state. The recorded talks are so good that the congregation has grown from 100 members to 3,000 in six years, said Mark Bankord, who eschews the head pastor title and calls himself the church's "directional leader."
Two-thirds of the 6,000 people attending North Coast Christian Church in Vista, Calif., now go to video venues, its pastors say. The music is live, and churchgoers can choose an assortment of styles -- traditional hymns, acoustic guitar music or heavy Christian rock -- before the sermon lights up a screen.
However, not everyone is excited about this new trend. Eddie Gibbs, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary says, The New Testament image of the body of Christ is a fellowship of believers where I am known at church and if I'm not there I'm missed. A video venue puts the focus on just one person.
He added, It's a cold medium . . . It can feed a celebrity image. You can build a sort of celebrity focus, and the pastor becomes a celebrity because (he or she) is distanced from the congregation . . . But pastors should know the people they are preaching to."